Last week, as the Los Angeles Clippers were in the midst of a 17-game winning streak and defeating teams by an average margin of nearly 16 points per game, skeptics were wondering when they would even be challenged.
After back-to-back road losses by double digits, the question has quickly changed to when will the Clippers challenge a playoff team on the road.
What a difference a year makes for the Clippers, who are now 0-2 two days into 2013 after a 115-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. It was a game that was never really in doubt from the opening tip as the Warriors went up by 18 points in the first quarter and didn't look back.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Can’t buy a bucket
The Clippers were a streaky team last season. But they have obviously gained some consistency this season, highlighted by their 17-game winning streak. During the streak they didn’t live or die with the hot hand of one player or the deep ball. They were a deep team that found different ways to win on different nights. On Wednesday night, however, the Clippers couldn’t really get anything going offensively as they shot just 36.3 percent from the field. Outside of Chris Paul, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, the rest of the Clippers scored just 18 points. Not only could the Clippers not get anything going offensively, they were outrebounded by 15 (53 to 38) and turned the ball over 15 times, which led to 16 points for Golden State.
“It was frustrating. I thought we’d give a better overall effort tonight,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters after the game. “I especially didn’t like the way the game ended, but overall we didn’t execute what we wanted to do offensively and defensively, last night and tonight. We have to go back to the drawing board, get our energy back and see if we can regroup.”
Well, this is becoming a trend now. For the third straight game, Blake Griffin struggled to get anything going offensively. After posting seven points and seven rebounds against Utah, he had 12 points and nine rebounds against Denver; on Wednesday against Golden State, he had just 10 points and six rebounds. It’s a huge drop-off for a player who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week to start December and averaged 18.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in the month.
“Blake struggled tonight,” Del Negro said. “He didn’t have his best game. He’d be the first to say that.
“I don’t think anyone played particularly well,” he added. “We forced a lot of things. We weren't productive in any stretch.”
Barnes and Crawford
With Caron Butler away from the team due to personal reasons, Barnes was thrust into the starting lineup before the game and responded with 19 points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Crawford picked up the slack off the bench, scoring 24 points and posting five assists. Barnes and Crawford have keyed the Clippers’ bench this season. But as deep as the Clippers are, taking Barnes off the second unit hurt the Clippers. Outside of Crawford, the rest of the Clippers’ reserves combined for just nine points. Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe’s struggles continued as he was 0-for-7 with just two points. Since taking a nasty fall at Milwaukee on Dec. 15, Bledsoe has scored more than six points just twice in 10 games.
Crawford was able to lead the Clippers in scoring despite limping pregame after hurting his left foot. Crawford told reporters it was painful during the game but that he could not afford to miss any time since the Clippers are already dealing with injury issues. "I hurt it yesterday, but a game like this you don't want to miss," Crawford said. "Especially having Caron not here and missing Chauncey [Billups] and missing Grant [Hill]. I have no choice but to play."